By Yvonne Villarreal
9:00 AM PST, November 19, 2012
Morgan Saylor is the teen with the most overworked eyebrows in the business.
At a time when everyone is taking notice of Claire Danes' cry face on "Homeland," Saylor has managed to carve her own facial stamp. The 18-year-old plays Sgt. Nick Brody's (Damian Lewis) dour teenage daughter Dana on the Showtime drama. In the show's debut season, she was introduced as a pot-smoking troublemaker mad at the world -- or at least, her mom, played by Morena Baccarin. And she managed to save America from her suicide-bomber father -- all valid reasons for brow stress.
Then Season 2 got underway. And Saylor's role has grown substantially, with a story line that has included a budding romance with the vice president's son and being involved in a deadly hit-and-run. In addition to adding reason to scowl, her boosted presence has left her hard to ignore -- even "SNL" felt compelled to spoof her in its recent "Homeland" sketch.
Let's just go right to it: Please tell me you saw the "SNL" skit.
Yesss. That was so weird. It was so weird. I didn’t get to see it when it aired, but my managers had called me that night so excited because they heard it was going to happen. I was out, and a lot of my friends were texting me and telling me and I still hadn’t seen it. I didn’t have access to a computer so I could only watch it on my phone. But, yeah, it was sooo weird! So funny, though.
Were you, like, "Hey, what the heck?" or were you amused?
I thought the Carrie [Claire Danes] stuff was really well done. And the Brody mouth thing cracked me up. But it was so weird to see because it’s like a caricature, you know?
… but what about their take on your character?
It was funny. They did the little nervous hand thing that I guess I do, apparently. A bunch of people at school have been coming up to me and saying, “Dad? … Dad? … Dad?...”
Let’s talk about Sunday’s episode. Dana has more crying scenes than Carrie in this one. Did you feel a lot of pressure to do justice to the quivering chin?
I mean, there is a lot of crying. And, let me tell you, it isn’t over. And, yeah, it’s hard to compare to Claire on the crying scale. But it’s easy to cry on a show like this — it’s not like it’s out of the blue. The stakes are so high. I sort of have been building up to the quivering.
Do you think Carrie is trying to be your new mommy?
Ugh, would be Dana’s response. … uh, I don’t know. I don’t think Dana would really enjoy that!
Dana and Carrie have a lot in common. They see Brody in ways the others don’t.
I think Dana and Carrie have a lot of similarities, especially in their view in Brody. I think the writers have purposely put a lot of parallel aspects in the stories that are unfolding. The pressures are the same for them, but in different ways. But they are also very different. And I don’t think anytime soon they’ll be getting along just because of the way Dana has been introduced to Carrie. But I bet in a different context, Dana would look up to Carrie. She’s a strong woman.
Your part has gotten meatier this season. Was that cause for concern, like, "Uh-oh, what do they plan to do with me?" At least it’s not like on “The Walking Dead” where you have to wonder if they’re building you up to kill you … or is it?
It was a surprise. My character got a little bigger at the end of last season, but this season I have my own plotline. It’s crazy. Each script came out and it was juicier and juicier. And I was excited, but so nervous and scared that I wouldn’t be able to carry it.
And you got a little romance in the process with the VP’s son, Finn. And poor Xander got downgraded.
I actually heard that I’d be getting a romance before [Timothee Chalamet] was cast and I was really, really excited. I remember the day he was cast, we were on set and we Googled him and the crew was excited to find out who my love interest was going to be. But it took a while because we couldn’t find photos of him online! I mean, there were a couple, but we weren’t even sure if it was the right person.
When you learned this romance would eventually entail you guys contributing to the death toll on this show, what went through your mind?
Isn’t it crazy? I had a dream the night that I read that script that I hit a policeman. It was so terrifying. I was literally, like, at the next block and I couldn’t decide if I should get out of the car or what to do. My head is racing just thinking about it. I’m not very good at keeping secrets.
Well, in Sunday’s episode, we learn how Finn’s parents handle the situation. How are things going to play out from here?
The last episode definitely caused a big separation between not only the Waldens and the Brodys, but Finn and Dana. And Dana doesn’t really respect Finn after what’s happened because she’s so shocked that he couldn’t do the right thing. And it’s miserable. He’ll be back, but I don’t know how ready she is to forgive him.
You’ve got the teen angst thing down solid — you always look like you're carrying the world on your shoulders. Is that difficult, to constantly have your eyebrows furrowed?
Ha! Yeah, it’s not too bad. But, yeah, sometimes we’ll be laughing on set or doing something ridiculous and I’m so used to doing what you said — like, right now, I’m picturing my eyebrows furrowing — and it's funny because I do get a slight headache from it all. It was hard sometimes, but most of the time a lot of what the story line has been, and what it’s built up to, is cause for it. And not just with my character. Jessica, Carrie and Brody have had a lot of reason for it — pain, and agony, and grief.
I wish someone would fill Chris [Jackson Pace] in on something. We sometimes lose sight that he’s there — unless there’s like another karate tournament.
Yeah, he’ll step up a little. I know Jackson is eager to do something, but, you know, I think as he gets older, there will be a little more juice able to be soaked up by him.
Damian and Claire seem like very serious people. Tell me you guys are playing Candyland between takes or something.
In between takes, we hang out, we play card games. On set, yeah, Damian is very serious. Off set, we all know how to have a good time. We film in Charlotte and there’s not too much to do. I’ve learned to cook from Morena— she taught me how to chop onions -- and we’ve done some dinner parties.
Being on a Showtime drama would seem like an intense thing. Were you actively looking for something more dramatic as opposed to, like, being the next Disney star?
Kind of. I’m not good at Disney acting. I’m really not. I never was on that audition list, which I don’t mind. I don’t know. I look back and I’m kind of wiping my forehead at the thought of, "What if I had gone that route?" Because I’m an unknown and you kind of just take what you’re given. I got lucky.Have you had a chance, off-screen, to touch the corkboard in Carrie’s apartment?
To touch the board? Ha! Yeah, oh yeah.
Have you tried to pin anything on it when no one is looking? Sorry, I'm obsessed with it.
No, no, I haven’t. It’s funny because I could, it’s right near the Brody house stage.
Also, how many pairs of those ankle boots do they have on deck for you?
Well, you know, I’m actually wearing a pair right now. There are two pairs. I don’t know why they have become such a staple. They were in the pilot and just kind of stuck. And I have literally taken them home last hiatus and this one, and I’ve re-soled them. I love them. I think they are Steve Madden. And I like that they can fold down or be up.OK, on to serious matters: What can we expect as the season finishes out?
There are some big changes in the family. We’re kind of pushed to the limit.
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